The Sea of Dreams is clear and blue, the sun of the late Wood season shining bright over the clear, deep waters. At the helm of her ship, Beyaloa is steering toward the great white plume of clouds marking the Fiery Isles. The rest of the group (along with three of the Voriyaras) is trying not to get in the way of the three sailors actually working, Pragatima racing with Beyaloa’s tidemare Calip on the surface of the water, Harik sculpting and talking with Beyaloa about sorcerous workings projects, and Rohim taking care of Onirim, who spends his day looking at the horizon on the prow.
They are a couple of days away from their first destination when they notice a quartet of sails coming towards them, three of them visibly intent on intercepting their small ship. Immediately, Pragatima jumps in the tidemare and goes under the surface. Their fears are confirmed when the first ship lets loose a volley of fiery arrows on the Temeraire, setting fire to the sail.
But no pirate ship can last long against the might of a circle of Exalts. Rohim and Beyaloa’s sailors quickly put down the sail and try to keep the fire in check, and the two sorcerers start to incant. They would be easy prey for the archers, but a powerful shout from the Dawn shakes their ship like a reef, cracking the cracks the underside of their hull and throwing off their aim. A few seconds later, one of the pirate ship’s prows explodes in a burst of fire, Harik’s incandescent Raptor igniting the archer’s oil. The second ship is battered by Beyaloa’s Obsidian Butterflies, the stone insects shredding sails and ropes, leaving the pirates exposed and wounded.
The third pirate ship starts to flee, and Pragatima sends another shockwave throught the hull before boarding it. There is a moment of indecision as the crew hesitates to surrender, and their captain, her face still covered with war-paint, throws her weapons to the deck and falls on her knees… only to be suddenly decapitated by the Hazan woman.
Horrified, Beyaloa forces herself to maintain her composure, and she soons board the pirate ship, taking command by sheer force of will. She accept the pirates’s surrender, allowing their second-in-command to put a rowboat down to help the other crews.
Meanwhile, the fourth ship is approaching the scene, and the pirate crew recognise it as a dhow used by a renowed pirate-hunter. Unfazed, the group calmly waits and meet their captain, who introduces himself as Karo-karo, and congratulate them on their prowess. He invites them on his ship to discuss where to send the captured pirates, but Beyaloa refuses, saying that she prefers to keep them under her command for the time being. Taken aback, Karo-karo tells them that captured pirates are usually sold as slaves in the south, and that they should not set such a precedent. He ends up bowing out of the conversation, obviously concerned about angering two powerful sorcerers, and intrigued at the reason for their presence.
After a few days of travelling around the volcanic north of the main island, the Temeraire and the two captured pirate ships arrive at the clear turquoise bay sprinkled with ancient ruins, where the city of Ma Nao has been built amongst the crumbled walls, temples and towers of a long-lost metropolis.
They are received by agents of the local bey, and offered a house inside the palace ground. As they wait for the bey to receive them, they start visiting the city, enjoying the hot springs and the sights, striking conversations with the locals. Pragatima, uneasy about the open slavery and the ghostly soldier wandering the street in copper armor, questions ayoung godblooded slave to learn more about the local culture. Later, they also meet Abduraman, the local admiral, and end up having a chat with him during dinner, learning that the Bey has been hard to reach for a while, and that most petitionners end up giving up before ever getting a meeting.
Then, late at night, as they come back to their house, Rohim bashfully trying his best to forget the vision of Pragatima bathing in the nude and almost carrying a too-drunk-to-walk Harik, they are greeted by Piliang, the second wife of the Bey, standing in their living room. Apologising for the intrusion, she explains that they might have a common goal, and invites them to eat with her outside Ma Nao the next day, leaving the group suspicious but interested in discovering more about the intrigue they apparently stumbled upon.